Friday, December 11, 2009

My Little Gingerbread Army

Timeline of Michelle's transition into the Christmas spirit:
24th of October - Walking through Big W exclaiming "Oh come ON, its not even my BIRTHDAY yet!" every time I walk past Christmas decorations.
13th of November - Late night shopping in the city, shaking my head in disbelief at the groups of carollers singing around the place. Followed by me telling everyone I spoke with over the next week about my disgust.
20th November - First suggestions of work Christmas party and Secret Santa are made, Silly Season seed is planted...
25th November - Christmas party confirmation. Secret Santa present brainstorming begins.
29th November - Secret Santa present decided: Gingerbread men. Christmas excitement growing rapidly, even though getting excited about Christmas before December is technically ridiculous.
3rd December, 2am - Covered in flour and bits of dough, smelling of nutmeg, ginger and cloves, trying to use previously mentioned Christmas spirit to stay awake, thinking it should be stronger now that it is officially December.
4th December - Trying not to allow Christmas spirit to dwindle, even though Gingerbread men made of my own blood sweat and tears (figuratively speaking, of course...?) were grossly under appreciated. Instead decide to focus on open bar and steak the size of my head.
Present - Presents are slowly being bought, Christmas trees are slowly being put up, Christmas Spirit definitely in full swing. Thinking of going late night shopping in the city again to fully appreciate carollers, that's if they haven't already been replaced by people dressed as Easter Bunnies or something...
Hopefully all of you are getting into the Christmas Spirit too, though hopefully less grudgingly than me... Please enjoy these ASTOUNDING Gingerbread men, not astounding because I am fully against being modest, astounding because Martha is a clever ol' bird and has made the loveliest Gingerbread I've ever had the pleasure to try. I was impatient (as per usual) so made mine thicker than suggested, but I think it only made them better, they aren't a chewy biscuit, so it was good to have them thicker so you could enjoy more of the soft biscuit-y goodness. It's been pointed out that my cookie cutter makes somewhat unconventional Gingerbread men, with one review stating "I don't know why but their feet and sloping shoulders look so cute." If you too like their sloping shoulders, I got mine from House. So yeah, even though they are kind of time consuming, I wholeheartedly recommend you give them a go, and then tell me how they went, I love seeing how people decorate their own!

I really need to learn to read recipes all the way through before beginning. It wasn't until I had finished mixing the ingredients together (at like 11pm) that I read the part about having to chill the mixture in the freezer for a whole entire hour. Not cool. Ha, freezer, cool. (Note, this is bag of mixture #1 of 3, if this gives you an idea of just how much mixture this recipe makes!)

But once the mix was all properly chilled i realised just how necessary it was, rolling the room temperature stuff would NOT have been fun. Chilled definitely WAS. (P.S. Nice food posing Michelle, didn't even put the cookie cutter up the right way).

Cookies baking, and no, the camera isn't tilted. I bought cookie trays before measuring my oven, resulting in all my baking being ever so slightly lop sided...

Just SOME of the gingerbread men! That Martha, my oh my, she certainly doesn't do things by halves. You should though. I don't think anyone needs this many gingerbread men.

Day 2: The decorating begins. While I love everything about this bowl of icing pre-mixed, there was nothing to love about it post mixed. Worst. Purple. Ever.

Sister Meagan (of the non nun variety) beginning the decorating festivities. It looks posed, but she really was like, milliseconds away from putting hair on that little guy. (The icing bag is the one I'm talking about later on).

Putting the finishing touches on her Gingerbread Borats. Because one is never enough.

The men! Oh, I'm sorry, and the ladies, and the one genderless baby. Meagan's are the six on the right, mine are the rest on the left. I'm not sure how we got so off course on the whole traditional gingerbread men front, I even googled pictures of them for ideas, but somehow we got caught up amongst a sea of toga wearing greeks, overalls and rockstars. I think i like them better this way.

One of my favourites, and incidentally one of the first to be ripped apart by my secret Santa receiver. My heart broke a little when i saw his beautifully styled hair being brutally separated from his slick little bowtie... He'll always hold a place in my heart...

Gingerbread Men

Martha Stewart's Cookies

Makes lots, can't remember exactly but I'm guessing almost 30.


  • 5 1/2 cups plain flour (US cups, but it was too late in the evening for me to fiddle around with conversions so I just went nuts and used metric)
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (I used normal salted butter so left out the extra salt)
  • 4 tsp ground ginger (nuts, i know, this is why i would feel safer it if were halved!)
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg (Martha was going on about fresh ground nutmeg, but she's fancy and I'm not so I just went for the jar stuff)
  • 225g unsalted butter (as I said before, i went for the normal stuff).
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar (I usually just skip the dark bit and go for normal brown sugar, but i figured gingerbread is meant to be all dark and syrupy so I lashed out and got dark, it was way worth it)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unsulfured molasses (what the heck right? I just used golden syrup, it may not have been unsulfered (does that make it sulfered?) but it still did the trick)


  1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (As per usual, didn't read this part of the recipe at all, so just used normal beaters, the mixer struggled, but that probably had something to do with the 5 cups of flour...) Mix on medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs and molasses and mix until combined. Add flour mixture; mix on low until combined. Divide dough into thirds, wrap each in plastic. (I used sandwich bags, I heart sandwich bags. Sorry environment.) Chill 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 175C. Line two large baking trays with baking paper.
  4. On a generously floured (superclean) benchtop (Martha rolled hers out on the cookie trays, but my rolling pin was too big to do that so yeah, that's why I went bench) roll dough just under 1/4 inch thick. Brush off excess flour and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. (I didn't freeze after I rolled it, i just got in there quick and cut it up before it got too warm. With the extra bits of dough, roll them back up into a ball and pop them back in the freezer while you're rolling out the next batch, keeps it all nice and cold and rollable.)
  5. Cut dough with cookie cutters (Martha used snowflake shaped cutters, super pretty, but I've never seen them in Australia, plus who can go past a good old fashioned Gingerbread man?). Place dough onto prepared baking sheets, freeze until firm, around 15 minutes. (God, you'd think martha wanted to marry a freezer the way she keeps going on about them. I fully didn't freeze them and don't feel it had an overly negative effect. They kind of bumped into each other and stuck, but I think that's because I put them too close, plus they were on a slope...)
  6. Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes, or until crisp but not darkened, rotating sheets halfway through once and firmly tapping down pan. (My oven right now is weird and cooks SUPER fast and dries EVERYTHING out, so mine cooked quicker and I probably took them out a little early out of fear of ruining them, but they were still awesome. Some hot a little burnt because I forgot about them, but I kind of liked them like that, they were crunchy with a pretty nice taste, so you really can't go wrong! Oh and the tapping thing, it was like 1am by the time I got to the actual baking stage, and the firm tapping was a bit loud for the roomies so I skipped that step). Transfer cookies to wire wracks to cool completely.

And now for the icing! Martha's had something called 'Meringue Powder' or something so I found a less weird, slightly more dangerous recipe on the internet. (Yeah, some people live on the edge by speeding, patting sharks etc, me? I'm all about the raw egg whites baby.)

Royal Icing

Best Recipes

(I shouldn't be giving them a mention, the stupid website doesn't let you copy the text. How do they expect me to steal their recipes quickly and easily??)

Because I had lots of Gingerbread men I quadrupled this recipe, too much, but better to be safe than sorry. For a regular batch I'd probably double it.

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup icing sugar (Have a little extra on hand, I had never made this before so didn't really know what it was meant to look like, but it seemed a bit runny to me, so I just kept shaking in a little icing sugar at a time till it looked firm enough not to run straight off the gingerbread men.)
  • food colouring

  1. Place egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
  2. Gradually add icing sugar until soft peaks form. (Ha, just read this properly, there was nothing gradual about my icing sugar adding, whoops).
  3. Divide icing into bowls, add food colouring and stir until combined.
  4. Spoon the icing into separate small freezer bags, snip the ends and pipe onto cooled biscuits. (I have always sworn by using freezer bags for icing, but I have recently discovered the light, it is bright, convenient, and alot less risky (writing on my friend's birthday cake, freezer bag exploded, I cried, bad memory). I am not going to admit how long I just scoured google to find these things so I could link to them, but yeah, no luck. They're just plastic disposable icing bags, and they come with icing tips as well, only like 3 bucka or something, totz worth it, I would recommend them to the Pope if he were interested.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Accidental Absences and Macadamia Mania

Why hello! If you are reading this, thankyou for coming back to check on me, even though I have been lame and haven't given you any fun food to look at in a while. If you aren't reading this, then, um, woah... I just blew my own mind. So, did my absence make your heart grow fonder? If it just filled you with annoyance at my laziness then i plead with you to forgive me, please, ill even show you how to make the best white chocolate macadamia cookies you could possibly imagine. Now come on, who can say no to that? People with diabetes maybe, but yeah, im sorry. I have excuses though! Lots! My long list of excuses all began on Thursday the 15th of October at 4:36pm. I remember it vividly, I was lying on my bed watching "Madmen" thinking how much that show makes me wish i were a smoker when my phone rang, and it wasn't my mum! I know, crazy. Turns out it was some lady asking me to get my behind to Brisbane for an interview to be part of their collections team! Cue frenzied panic crossed with utter joy, which was not hampered by the fact that i didn't totally know what the job i was being offered was. I ran around and found my interview handbag and shoes, then brushed the dust off of them, then put on my interview clothes only to find that my months of baking had left them, slightly undersized. Cue more panic and a trip to target, thank gosh for Thursday night shopping. I then drove my way up to Brisbane and turned up on my sisters doorstep with an air mattress and a bag of crispy m&ms (a driving necessity). After a night of talking, toast eating and valley dropping off I came home and laid out my interview clothes and went to bed, but not before i jumped on my laptop and tried to find out just what a "collections officer" was. Next morning i was interviewed and then instantly offered a job! "I must have really impressed them!" I thought, so naive. They asked me to start on the Monday so after a quick trip to a cupcake shop with my sister I went back to Ballina to pack. By Sunday night me and my bird Rolly were all settled in to my sister's cute little previously blue house. It is now three weeks later and I am now an official debt collector. It isn't a cool feeling to be a debt collector, i will tell you that now. I call people all day and ask for money, which of course is then their cue to abuse the hell out of me, which, while completely understandable, makes the working day not so enjoyable. My second day I was told by a debtor "you're awful chirpy for a debt collector." While three days ago I was given a wake up call when a debtor asked me if I "was trained to be this rude." My chirpyness, it is leaving me, and this, I do not like. Of the seven people trained since I started, only 3 of us are left, and I have seen two other older workers quit. I hope I am lucky enough to be one of them soon! While I was astoundingly relieved to be finished with the job hunting game, I shall start again, if only for my personality's sake. So wish me luck, and I shall reward you with cookies you will tell your grandchildren about. I personally can't wait for that so Im just walking round telling other people's grandchildren.
Macadamia chopping: fun. White chocolate chopping, not very thoroughly thought through. After these few pieces were chopped I went back to the drawing board and added a step: cool white chocolate in fridge if weather is astoundingly hot for October.
Look! Brown butter! Brown butter I made all on my little lonesome! This is another of those things i always read about in American recipes but am always too scared to try. Im so glad i went for it, it was awesome. Thankyou Joy for giving such awesome instructions on exactly how it all works, and what should happen when. If it weren't for those instructions I would have chickened out before the 'brown' part happened and would have just ended up with hot butter.

This is the 'brown' bit im talking about, see? They're little burnt bits of butter which makes the mixture taste kind of nutty, I think from now on im going to be using brown butter in ALOT more things.

This photo makes me want neenish tarts! Ooh, I saw a recipe for those today, i hope i make that happen, real soon...

Here is my lovely little ball of deliciousness. If you are wondering why it is still a ball, well, let me tell you. Since Cassie from howtoeatacupcake talked about freezing balls of cookie dough before baking them in one of her recipes I have become a little obsessed with it. It works so well, it leaves the middle slightly squishy and more puffy, it helped me perfect my favourite peanut butter cookies, and I figured it would do the same here. A few things happened though, I got distracted by visitors and ate lunch and left the trays of cookie dough in the freezer for AGES, and i put heaps of macadamias and white chocolate in the mix, AND i didn't cook them long enough, which all culminated in these little miracles. They are thick and raw in the middle, I couldn't have hoped for anything better. I love when my cooking mistakes turn into something beautiful.

Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Joy the Baker (who adapted it from Betty Crocker)

For Joy it made two dozen small cookies, while for me, I havent got a clue. I just made them as big as I wanted. Make them as big as your judgement suggests, then add a little more!

Ingredientes (that's Spanish for ingredients, just in case i lost you.)

  • 115g butter (direct quote from Joy: don’t even think of using margarine)
  • 1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar (I used normal, I think joy wrote at some point that it doesn't really matter which you use.)
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts (I chopped them in half because i wanted a flavour explosion. And I used more than recommended, once again for the flavour explosion.)
  • 1 cup white chocolate chunks (i just chopped up white chocolate, its so much bigger than choc chips!)

Método (are you catching on to my theme yet?)

  • Preheat oven to 175C. In a medium saucepan melt the butter, swirling and stirring the butter until nicely browned bits appear in the bottom of the pan. This may take about 5-7 minutes. Once the butter is browned, remove pan from heat and set aside to cool a bit while you measure out the dry ingredients and set them aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer add the brown sugar and slightly cooled butter. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add egg and beat for one minute more. Add milk and vanilla extract and beat to incorporate.
  • Turn the mixer off, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the dry ingredients all at once. With either the stand mixer on low, or by hand with a spatula, incorporate the dry ingredients until just mixed in.
  • Fold in the chopped nuts and white chocolate chips.
  • (Eat a spoonful of mixture and tell me if it tastes like aromatherapy oil to you. Other taste testers assured me i was being silly, but I need more opinions. Don't worry if it does, the taste does not carry on past the baking stage.)
  • Scoop two teaspoon sized balls onto a lined baking sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until cookies are deliciously golden. Remove from oven and let rest of the baking sheet for 3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Aoli Adventures.

Aoli and chips. I lived for over 23 years without knowing what this tasted like, and now I know that they were wasted years. The only problem with the stuff is it changes everywhere you go. Cheaper places tend to taste like minced garlic from a jar mixed with mayonnaise, which while edible is not the best. I found some at the supermarket but it had a weird plastic-y taste to it, not very cool. I think the best I have had was at this new cafe in town which is in the old post office, or was it the council chambers? Eh, either way, I got some fish and chips and they gave me some mad perfect aoli, and home made ginger beer which sometimes visits me in my dreams, sigh. I figured that it tasted so good because they made it themselves and because they used all good fresh ingredients. And so the challenge was set.
I looked up a few recipes on the internet and ended up with this one because it had lime in the title and lime ALWAYS = win. Ive never made anything mayonnaise-y before so it freaked me out a little that I was going to make something out of raw egg yolks but I persevered. Yeah, I'm a trooper. After eating this, I definitely think that I, and all other people who ate this earned the right to be called troopers, man alive was this stuff garlicky! And not just like "oh no, I'm gonna need a tic tac!" garlicky, this had like, burning your taste buds levels of garlic. I put this on some fish, then i scraped alot off my fish, then I put some tomato sauce on my chips and went "what? did I accidentally get bbq sauce??" the answer was no, the garlic had just broken my tongue and everything tasted weird as a result. The only person who was a fan was Dad who even used it again the next morning on toast for breakfast. Supertrooper. I think that this recipe would be amazing with ALOT less garlic, that's why I'm sharing the recipe, I think it has potential, I hope you aren't too scared to give it a go!
Pouring in the oil, so so much oil... but i guess that's just how mayonnaise works...
Giving it a good mix, the oil kept gathering at the bottom where the blades couldn't get to it so I had to keep stopping it and giving it a stir.
All done! Looking a little like pureed curried eggs or something, eek. Wow, I'm just really talking this stuff up aren't I! I'm sorry, please ignore my descriptions, I think that with the changes I'm gonna make below we could have a real aoli winner on our hands. You have to trust me, imagine yourself standing on the end of the titanic, you are rose, i am jack, do you trust me? I promise this won't end with us freezing our bums off in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, promise.

Lime Aoli

From Taste (really great website, it has recipes from a few food magazines all in the one place. I always buy Super Food Ideas and Recipes+ but when I cant be bothered looking through these for dinner ideas I pop on this site.)

  • 2 limes
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2tsp dijon mustard
  • 250mls/1cup light olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped (so many things wrong with this one, well, two, but they are two very big things. For one, WAY too much garlic, 6?? Really?? I cant believe I even believed this would be a good idea... The new wise Michelle would go for 2 cloves and have a taste. And for number two, i want my garlic to be as small as possible in this sort of thing so I crushed it)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Finely grate the limes and reserve a little to garnish. (it says to julienne the rind of one of the limes, but like the garlic, i decided that smaller was better). Juice the limes and measure out 1 1/2T of the juice.
  2. Place the egg yolks, lime juice and mustard in a food processor.
  3. With the motor running add the olive oil drop by drop until the mayonnaise begins to thicken.
  4. Continue to add oil in a thin steady stream until well combined.
  5. Add garlic and grated lime and process to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I was expecting it to get thicker so left it processing for ages but it doesn't really need to, it's a sauce afterall!)
  6. Serve it out and garnish with leftover lime rind.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Fiesta of Paella, followed by a Siesta in a Sombrero.

Before I started this site I spent about a week trying to think of a name for it. I made lists and tried them out on my mum and sister. Some of the names were based around cupcakes and im so glad none of them were successful in the end. A site purely dedicated to cupcakes never would have allowed me to share this amazing recipe with you all, and that would be downright silly. This chicken paella has to be one of my favourite mexican dishes, it has so much going for it, the best of all being the chorizo, my goodness the chorizo. It's making me super hungee just thinking about it, and these pictures definitely aren't helping! The recipe is from this book I got when i was working as a checkout chick at woolies. It came glued to the back of some magazine, then when the next issue of the magazine came out we had piles of this lovely recipe book lying round, so I made puppy eyes at the nicer supervisors and managed to score a couple of them. Ill be forever grateful to those supervisors, and my puppy eye making skills. It is half mexican dishes which is sponsored by Old El Paso, and then you flip it over and get Latina product inspired Italian dishes. Basically its a huge advertisement for both companies but I don't mind at all, the recipes are really good and you can always substitute the ingredients for any brand you like. I've never made anything from the Italian side, probably because every time i get the book out i ended up getting distracted by either this recipe or the Baked Tortilla Beef stack which is on the same oil spattered page. Poor rest of the book, I'm sure you're good, but you just have nothing on these two babies, swoon. (Putting the action 'swoon' in type makes me worried that people think i'm actually saying swoon outloud. I think this comes from when I was teaching english in japan and a student was reading a dialogue and actually said "gasp!" I learnt very early on there how to laugh on the inside.)
My beautiful Chorizo, just before I cooked it to near burnt-to-a-crisp levels. Im a huge fan of burnt, much less scary than undercooked. And so lovely and crunchyyyy.

The colourful dish getting it's serve of garlic, using the world's best garlic crusher. I don't care if saying this makes me sound old: They just don't make them like they used to.

Looking like its going to turn out slightly un-delicious.

Leave it a while and then BLAMMO, the best mexican rice dish in the history of man. Actually I think this may be the only mexican rice dish i've ever had so I really shouldn't be making claims like that, but it's just. so. good.

All served up with some avocado and sour cream. I should really add lime into that description because the avocado mix probably has more lime in it than avocado, I do love limey avocado...

Fiesta Paella with Chicken

From Modern Mexican (I couldn't find any reference for this book through google searching so you just get the link to the Old El Paso website, sorry.)

Serves 4-5

  • 200g chorizo sausage, cut into 1/2cm slices (When i buy this in the deli section of the supermarket it's always like, 150g per sausage so I just round up and get two, it's not too much, it's just right! Plus I like to slice the sausage a bit thinner because i like it crispy but it's all up to you.)
  • 500g chicken (i always just get already cut stir fry chicken but you can get whatever kind you like and slice it up yourself if you like)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium capsicum, finely chopped
  • 1tsp turmeric (thanks to spellcheck i just found out that i have been spelling (and saying) this wrong since, forever. Tumeric. Turmeric. I like the mispelled way...)
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
  • 375g jar Old El Paso Enchilada Simmer Sauce (or any brand, doesnt matter if the size jar you get it a little bigger or smaller. Also if you cant get simmer sauce just get burrito or taco sauce or something, im sure it will work well too.)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (I'm not a big fan of garnishes that do not add anything to the taste of the meal, it just seems silly to buy a bunch of parsley just so it can look pretty for to seconds before you mix it all up. So yeah, if you have parsley on hand and you are all about the parsley taste, go for it, but if not, it doesn't really make a difference)
  • Sour cream to serve
  • avocado and lime juice mixed together. (I use bottled lime juice and it does the trick.)

  1. Cook chorizo sausage in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until golden brown, then remove and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in pan, add chicken, cook until browned.
  3. Add onion, garlic and capsicum. Cook until softened.
  4. Add tumeric, cumin, rice, enchilada sauce and stock. Bring to the boil then cover, reduce the heat and simmer 15 minutes or until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally.
  5. Return chorizo to pan, add peas and stir until well combined. Cover, simmer for 5 minutes or until the chorizo is heated through and peas are cooked.
  6. Serve with avocado and sour cream.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Now we're baking with yeast!

You know how a few posts ago i was going on about how i don't BAKE bake, like, i have no patience for bread baking and all that? Well, turns out my curiosity has overpowered my laziness. And now I'm here to tell you that while curiosity didn't kill any cats, it definitely resulted in some meeeean monkeybread. "Monkeybread?!" i hear you fellow Australians say, what the heck is monkeybread??" Well I'm here to tell you that it is not as weird as it sounds, its more, heavenly than weird. Yes, heavenly, that is definitely the word i was looking for. I've seen lots of recipes for it on American blogs, its usually made in a big loaf, and yeah, it didn't really appeal to me, then i saw this recipe on cupcake project. How did she make me take the leap? She did two things: She changed the loaf into cupcakes (probably the same amount of work, but shh, this is not the time to point out such boring things) and she added chocolate and banana to the mix. Genius. Deliciously inspired. All resulted in something that tasted like a doughnut, but better. Well, id better stop rambling and get to the process, there were alot of different steps involved but it was fun and totally worth it, heeere we go!
First thing first: open up the yeast. Second up is being weirded out by the yeast. Isn't it weird? I don't know why i feel this way, i just do. I guess i just pictured it differently...
After much mixing and kneading (i wasn't even TOTALLY sure how to knead, so i was pretty happy it worked at all!) i got this pretty little ball of dough. My little dough baby.
Then after an hour of letting it hang out on the bench it doubled! Magic! My little baby, all grown up!
Next up I got the cinnamon sugar ready. I was pouring out the cinnamon and noticed something weird (yes, weirder than the yeast, which is really saying something). I couldn't get a clear picture but look at the bottom lip of the jar, see those strands of cinnamon? It was like they were magnetic or something. You remember that toy, it is a little box with a mans face in it, with metal shavings, and you give him a beard and stuff? It was just like that, but without the facial hair fun, if anyone 'gets' science and knows what went on here, fill me in yeah?
So here is the ball of dough before i put the banana and chocolate in, just to help you get an idea of how big to make it. It fully doesn't matter though, make them bigger, littler, doesn't matter, but yeah, doing them this size i got 12 cupcakes and had a good bit leftover, so don't hold back.
Some of the prepared doughballs next to the tasty coating production line. With mine i kind of just placed the doughballs on top of one another and you'll see later how they turned out, kinda uneven, but i was still happy with them, i just ripped them apart anyway. Though if you look at the cupcake project's cupcakes they were like, a perfect little dome, if you re aiming more for that kind of look then i reckon you should try and put them in the case right next to each other... Let me know if it works...
So here they are just placed in, you can see the ones at the bottom starting to puff up already, probably lame but it was all very exciting at them time! ... okay, I'll admit it, i still think it's exciting, so here are some before and afters, prepare to be amazed by the magic of yeast!

After! They're just about taking up the whole case now!

Close up before...

Close up after! Pfoosh! (if it didn't happen so slowly i would imagine this is the noise they would make.)

Awesome stuff. Ive always thought being a professional baker would be horrible, those early mornings, bleh, but now i get it, they get to watch this sort of thing happen every single day, lucky bastards.

Sigh, isn't she beautiful?

Okay, one last thing, before you go down and look at the recipe i just want to say that i know it looks like there alot of mad steps, too much to do, too fiddly, but really, its not, i swear! You'll need a bit of time spare but everything involved is super easy and you will be so happy with them once you finish, promise!

Monkey Bread Cupcakes with Banana and Chocolate

Recipe from the Cupcake Project

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1/2 C lukewarm water
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 T instant yeast or rapid rise yeast
  • 2 C - 250g plain flour (i only just realised recently that US cups and Metric Cups are a little different so that's why I've gone grams, for those who don't have scales just take out about 1tsp per cup, it usually doesn't make a difference but i thought with dough it might...)
  • 1/2C - 115g granulated sugar (i also just really like using my scales, that's why you're getting even more grams!)
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 ripe banana, cut into small slices
  • chocolate chips or baking chunks to taste (55g) (This is what was recommended but I ended up using sooo much more than this! I just got a block of chocolate, cut the squares in half and put one piece in each ball)
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted

1. Place water, vegetable oil, egg, salt, sugar, and yeast in a medium bowl and mix well.

2. Add 1 cup of the flour, stirring to blend.

3. Add the second cup of flour, stirring to make a cohesive dough. (I had no idea what a cohesive dough was, and google was no help, so i just mixed it till it looked good. I'm guessing cohesive is like the glue cohesive, so till the dough sticks together? smart?)

4. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes; this gives the flour a chance to absorb the liquid, making it easier to knead.

5. Knead the dough — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until it's soft and smooth.

6. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large measuring cup, cover it, and let the dough rise for 30 to 60 minutes or until it's doubled in size. (I left mine for an hour but only because i got a phone call, if i were one of those people who can balance a phone under their chin i so would have gotten to it earlier)

7. Gently deflate the dough.

8. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.

9. Place cupcake liners into a cupcake tin and lightly grease them with butter or cooking spray. (make sure that if you spray them you do it as late as possible, i did mine a bit early and later realised it made the colour from the cases stain the tin! Weird...)

10. Pull off a small piece of dough. How small? You should get 24 pieces out of the batter so that you can have two pieces in each cupcake. However, unless you are having a dinner party for exactly 12 people, it doesn't really matter and you can make the pieces whatever size you would like.

11. Stretch the piece out, put a banana slice and several chocolate chips or baking chunks inside, and then roll it into a ball. (If this sounds a bit confusing make sure you check out the original recipe page, she has a picture of this)

12. Dip the ball in the melted butter.

13. Dip the ball in the cinnamon and sugar.

14. Put the ball into the cupcake liner. You should be able to fit two balls into each cupcake liner.

15. Cover the cupcake tin and let the bread rise for 30 to 60 minutes, until it's visibly puffy. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 175C.

16. Uncover the cupcake tin and bake the monkey bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's golden brown and feels set.

17. While the monkey bread is baking, prepare the glaze.

Cinnamon Glaze

Also from the Cupcake Project

  • 1/2 C powdered sugar (i put in a little more cause it seemed a little runny and i didn't want it all to just pool at the bottom)
  • 1 T milk
  • 1/4 t cinnamon

1. Mix all of the ingredients together. 2. Drizzle over the hot cupcakes. 3. The cupcakes are best served warm. If you can't eat them immediately, reheat them in microwave for about 15 seconds before serving.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The markets and me.

Ive mentioned a few times how i had my own market stall now, and im sure, there are people suffering from this, suffering from curiosity! I know, its mad and exciting and its just plain wrong that ive kept it from you all for this long. Well im here today to tell you that you need wait no more, its market stall time. (much like hammer time but with tighter pants). A couple of times this year people suggested that i get a stall at the markets, but i never really considered it, so much effort, dont know how to go about it and all that. Then one thursday i got a flier in my mailbox saying that market stalls at the sunday markets down the road were only $10, and that if you bought the flier, you got a dollar off at the sausage sizzle. the cheap stall got me thinking, but the latter was definitely the clincher. That night I made a list of the cupcakes i wanted to make, then started the mad task of figuring out what ingredients i needed to buy, what extra things i would need (gloves, plates, plastic bags and all that jazz). After that i went onto the woolies internet shop and did HEAPS of maths and figured out how much it was going to end up costing me per cupcake so i could figure out how much to charge. and even though i was watching back to back episodes of true beauty, it was not a fun night. Friday and Saturday the shopping was started and finished, with much restless sleep and worrying that I'd forgotten something in between. Then came the baking. Oh me oh my, so much baking! I'd gotten the cookies out of the way on the friday night, but that still left the cookie dough cupcakes (which i had to make the cookie dough for as well as the cake!), the black bottom cupcakes, the brownies (i wasnt sure if i would be able to cut them into pretty enough squares so they became cupcakes too!), the chocolate banana cupcakes (my mum always made chocolate banana cake for my birthday, these HAD to be included!) and lastly, the upside down strawberry cheesecakes (which i shall be going on about today!). I started around 2pm (too late!) and transformed into a baking MACHINE (sigh, i wish i were speaking literally here). organise ingredients - mix ingredients - bake - clean - repeat alot untill you have sufficient baked goods. Baking for me stopped around midnight or so, then the icing began. Here was where i had to ask for help, cut to me sitting at the dining room table covered in icing sugar decorating the cupcakes while mum made signs and used the leftover cookie dough to make sample cookies with some weird movie in the background starring Isabella Rossellini, man that woman is hard to understand, or maybe it was the icing sugar in my ears? By two thirty in the morning the table looked like this. I was done. It was a miracle. Maybe not on the same miracle level as like, baby jesus and his immaculate conception, but still, it was pretty amazing. Five thirty i was back up and practically lying on the heater while eating toast. Dad was lovely enough to walk down to the markets super early to secure me an awesome spot and set up the table and brollie. He did astoundingly well! I got a spot with no stall on the other side, so everyone was either looking at me cakes or straight ahead, and i greeted all of them. My voice was hoarse and my cheeks aching from the constant smile by about 10am, i was so perky it literally hurt! But it also helped me to make moolah, and encouraged a man to let me play with his itty bitty pug puppy, adorable times a zillion. It was fun to see the trend of excuses for not buying my cupcakes as the day went on... 7am - 8:30am: "oh ho ho hoo no, i haven't had breakfast yet!" 8:30am - 10am: "oh ho ho hoo no, i've just had breakfast!" 10am - 1pm: "oh ho ho hooo no, i shouldnt, im on a diet!" All responses were accompanied by a pat of the belly. I wish i would have filmed it, i would have pitched it to david attenborough and we could have worked together to inform the world in a classy accent about this strange species: the market goer. Finally the end of the day came, and packing up began. I was just about to throw out the display samples when my friend and my mum's friend turned up, circling the table... me - well i guess it's time to throw these babies out. my friend - what? you arent going to sell those?? me - theyve been sitting out uncovered for 6 hours, people have been breathing on them, lots of people. my friend - *incoherent cupcake chewing sounds* mums friend - yoink! *chewing noises continue* they may have possibly gotten cooties, but on the plus side their "oh yuuum!" noises bought customers over to buy the last few cupcakes, good for me! So thats pretty much the end of my cupcake stall story, it was long, i know, im sorry, im not so good at the summarising... but yeah, to finish up, we went home and counted our moolah, minus-ing the float to see our profit and counted up 92 dollars. this was quickly followed by me looking devvo'd and whispering "but i spent ninety FIVE dollars... i worked for days to LOSE three dollars???" (i never was a good sport...) much relief was felt when mum remembered she hid some money in my car incase we got mugged by a gang of market goers. so all math mistakes aside i ended up selling $210 worth of cupcakes, a total profit of 110 bucka! not so bad huh? probably ended up at like $2 an hour for my (super intensive) labour but i didnt care, i made profits, i got to bake HEAPS without the worry i was fattening up the fimfam, and i got to hang out with my mum and see what it was like to be on the other side of the market experience. The markets were in town again last sunday, i got the flier again, i considered it, then decided to end on a high note. I want to be that mysterious girl who only came to the markets that one time, that everyone hopes will one day come back and smile fondly at their belly patting. Here is my little stall all set up, and my pretty pokey (my car) in the background. Oh! and mum sneaking in in red on the right! See how dewy the ground is? it was so early and cold! Now back to (nearly) the beginning. The actual making of the cupcakes. I picked this one to make cause it was my favourite, plus i took the most photos of it! Market baking day didnt leave much time for photo taking so a few of these photos are from when i cooked them before. Doesnt this strawberry just look derish? In the cases. It may look like alot of strawberries but it turned out really well, they kind of smooshed together and into the cake, its making my mouth water just looking at it! OH! and when you make these, make sure you put some of the strawberry pieces on a spoon and dip it in the mix and eat it. Its one of the best things i have ever tasted. for serious. Here they are cooling, arent they pretty! You can see the strawberry peeking through, trying to say hello! Here they are all nice, iced, and decorated with crushed gingernut biscuits, ready to go to market. Upside Down Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (pretty much the best cookbook i have. everything i have made from it has become an instant favourite, i highly recommend it!) Makes 12 (I think i only ended up with 9 or 10 cupcakes each time and there wasnt that much cake in each of them, so dont try and spread it out to make 12, they'll be lame).
  • 120g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (im sure that instead of the baking powder and plain flour you could just use self raising, but im too scared to try it!)
  • pinch of salt (i think its so silly that so many of these recipes tell you to use unsalted butter and then add salt. I always just skip the salt and just use normal butter)
  • 40g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 120ml whole milk (i used low fat, they were still awesome to the max)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 12 large strawberries, chopped into small pieces (i chopped up a whole punnet which was like, 12 small strawberries and it was too much)
  • 200g digestive biscuits (i used gingernut biscuits because i use any excuse i can get to put ginger in everything. I blended like half the packet and it was WAY too much, so dont waste good biscuits!)

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C, place paper cases in a 12 hole muffin tin.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter with an electric mixer on low speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  3. pour in the milk and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until all the ingredients are well mixed. Add the egg and beat well for a few minutes to ensure the ingredients are well incorporated.
  4. Divide the chopped strawberries between the paper cases. Spoon the cupcake mixture on top until 2/3 full and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in to centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Roughly break up the biscuits and put them in a food processor. Process until finely ground. When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the cream cheese frosting on top and finish with a sprinkling of finely ground biscuits.

Cream Cheese Icing

Humming Bird Bakery Cookbook

Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes - double the recipe for a 20cm cake

  • 300g icing sugar, sifted
  • 50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 125g cream cheese, cold

  1. Beat the icing sugar and butter together with an electric mixer on medium slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. (this really isnt alot of butter, so it was really hard to get it to mix through the icing sugar, so i always just end up putting the cream cheese in early and it still ends up great)
  2. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated.
  3. Turn the mixer up to medium high speed and continue beating until the icing is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Do not over beat as it can quickly become runny.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

For when it's too late to bake.

One night I was up late, everyone else was in bed, and i got this massive urge to make something. I knew it was too late for baking, something about baking after midnight, it just doesn't seem quite right. I was looking at this website called Peanut Butter Boy and going through his astoundingly large collection of peanut butter recipes. I heart peanut butter, so yeah, this is my kind of site. I was looking at his recipe for peanut butter hotdogs (not real hotdogs, dont freak out, just click the link!) and saw something about cinnamon raisin peanut butter and something deep inside me knew that awesomeness was on it's way. The recipe is mad easy, and doesn't need a mixer, so as you may have guessed, that is exactly what i made that fateful night! I wasn't in the blog making business at that point so no pictures were taken. I briefly thought about telling you about it with loads of descriptive talk so you could picture it yourself, but then i thought, 'I wouldn't read that, i like PICTURES.' So i took this opportunity to make some more, and im glad i did, now i have pictures AND more delicious crazy flavoured peanut butter! I ran out a while ago and have been trying to just eat normal peanut butter, too boring for words. Once you have this stuff, you just can't go back. You've been warned...
Look at this, just four ingredients! I know there is a series of books with recipes made up of four ingredients, but they never sound all that super delicious. THIS on the other hand...
So here they all are, tossed in together, the peanut butter is buried under there somewhere, im pretty sure anyway. I know it looks a but scary, all that cinnamon, but its not, this is just the FIRST lot of cinnamon i put in, there is more to come...
This was my favourite bit. Im big on stirring, i could stir all day long if i had the chance. Thats why i get a little sad when making muffins and some cupcakes. That pesky little "do not over mix" they throw in there, it always ruins my fun. Ive given out more than one batch of tough cupcakes because i decided to ignore that rule, it was still kinda worth it though, for me anyway. So yeah, I love this recipe alot cause i can stir till the cows come home, and since i have this lovely spatula and super smooth bowl, sometimes i do. I figure it just helps to smoosh the cinnamon in, which can only be a good thing.
And voila! cinnamon sultana peanut butter! (Can you keep a secret? I made this like half an hour after dinner, and the thought of a sandwich was... too much. So after i made this, and made the obligatory bite mark in it (see later photo) it went in the bin. I know, im sorry, im evil and wasteful. Dont tell jesus...)
"eat me michelleeeee, i dont care if you're so full of dinner you might explode, im so deliciously cinnamonny!"
"okay, i will admit, you are lovely and cinnamonny, but i cant, maybe some other time."
I went to put the peanut butter back in it's jar, but it ended up like this, with some in the bowl as well. I kept stabbing the peanut butter in the jar with a knife, trying to get rid of the air holes, then i remembered i put almost a cup of sultanas in there. Ah science. Luckily I had a near empty jar of peanut butter in the cupboard so i put my extra in there. Now i know everyone else isn't as big a hoarder as me, so i say you buy the jar, eat some boring peanut buttered toast for a few days, then when there is a sultana gap at the top, go go gadget fancy peanut butter.

Cinnamon Sultana Peanut Butter

From Peanut Butter Boy

The four, measly, easily attained ingredients

(note, this is obviously not a strict recipe at all, i changed things to how i like them, so you go crazy and do the same if you like!)

  • 450g peanut butter ---500g peanut butter (this is an american recipe, so the jar sizes are different. My jar of peanut butter was 500g so incase you get the same jar as me, ill include both measurements for the rest of the ingredients)
  • 1/2 cup sultanas --- 3/4 cup sultanas (this is a bit more than necessary, but i really love sultanas...)
  • 2T sugar --- 2 heaped tablespoons sugar
  • 3tsp cinnamon --- 4tsp cinnamon (okay, i started out with 4tsp of cinnamon, but it just didnt taste enough, the peanut butter taste REALLY takes over. So i kept adding and ended up with... dare i admit it?... 6tsp of cinnamon! I know, it sounds mad, but even with that much, it didnt taste mad cinnamonny! Ill taste it in the morning after it's had some time to soak in or whatever it does, if it tastes horrible i'll pop back on here and change it. If i dont change it, then you'll know, it was as awesome as i suspected.)

4 ingredients, one step!

You can mix it in the jar if you want, but that would be hard so i reckon you should just put it all in a big bowl, mix till your heart's content, put it all back in the jar, then take some back out and put it on toast. Yummers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Savoury? More like flavoury!

When i say im a bake-aholic, i really mean that im a sweets bake-aholic. I read bread recipes and go 'eh, all that effort, and i still have to put something on it to taste good?' I think the closest i ever came to real savoury baking was the cheese and vegemite scrolls i made once. they were good, but they had nothing on bakers delight cheddermite scrolls so i abandoned savoury baking for another few years. This year i started getting curious though. I'd look at savoury muffin recipes and make faces, it just wasnt how god intended muffins to be! but still, there would be that little voice inside me going "but you love bacon, why not put it in a muffin? bacon goes well with everything... except maple syrup." then i would agree with the little voice "no, never maple syrup. crazy canadians."
Then today, i was thinking about what kind of muffin i wanted to make. i owed my dad some baked goods, he likes eating the spoils of my baking for breakfast, and the last of the chocolate peppermint cupcakes i made on the weekend went to my mums work them to eat while watching their weekly super exciting training video. now dad puts up with alot of weird, fruity cupcakes and you never hear a complaint, so i thought i would bake something just for him. to show just how lovely i am, i baked what i thought i may never ever bake... savoury. savoury MUFFINS no less. it was a very big, internal struggle for me, but i went out there, i spent 10 minutes looking for cornmeal, i didnt find it, but i didnt give up. i asked someone where it was, they asked me if it was the same as cornflour, i said i was pretty sure it wasnt, we said a few more things, then we found it. under its sneaky alias, 'polenta.' then i went to the deli and asked for sundried tomatoes, the girl asked if i wanted SUNdried, or SEMIdried. she was surly and made me feel silly for not knowing the difference. but i soldiered ON. i wasnt going to let the savoury muffin win this round. no no no. making the muffins was super easy, the sundried tomatoes were stinky but i managed to look past that when i saw how quick the muffins rose! polenta has some serious risability to it. i like it. We all had a little taste once they came out of the oven and numMERS! i dont even like sundried tomatoes and i liked them. So please, if you are scared of savoury muffins, know that i was once like you and have overcome these fears. My crippling fear of spiders remains but since i cant fix that with baking, i think i'll just ignore it for a bit and eat some of my new savoury muffins!
Cornmeal, in one of it's many packages.

Sundried tomatoes, getting their stinky oil all over the place.

the sundried tomatoes deceiving me into thinking they are bacon. i need to stop talking about bacon.

I havent worked with cornmeal before (incase i hadn't already made that blatantly obvious) so i wasnt sure how much they would rise, and the recipe book wasn't helping me out any, so i filled to here. the outer part of the cupcake didnt rise at all, but it domed up in the middle. I reckon next time i'll fill them up to a bit before the top and see what kind of wild ride that takes me on.

probably a misleading angle, makes them look all huge and mighty, but really they are pretty small.

Corn muffins with sun dried tomatoes

Muffin bible

Each of the recipes in the book is meant to make 12 muffins but this only made seven itty bitty little muffins. So i would recommend doubling this recipe. Fo sho. (You'll have to do the maths though, maths is not what im about). Foodbits.

  • 60g coarse cornmeal (or polenta, or whatever the shop feels like calling it that particular day)
  • 70g plain flour
  • 2tsp caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 small egg
  • 100ml milk
  • 1T corn oil (psht, like i was buying a bottle of corn oil just for this, i used vegetable oil)
  • 25g sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and finely chopped. (as you can see in the picture these muffins arent LOADED with tomatoes, and im really just all about overkill when it comes to choc chips and anything you add to muffins, so i reckon you could add like 40 or 50 grams of tomatoes and it would be more deliciouso without tampering with the muffin too much. ALSO while eating these i did remember my 'bacon makes everything better' rule and got to thinking. Next time i make these i reckon i would add a little salami or of course, bacon. Add anything you like really, a bit of garlic, olives, follow your tastebuds.)
What to do with the foodbits
  • preheat oven to 220C (ive got a fan forced so i lowered the temp to 200C)
  • Stir all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • beat egg with milk and oil and gently mix into dry mixture.
  • fold chopped sundried tomatoes into batter.
  • spoon into greased muffin pans (they were a little hard to get out, but only because they were so solid. its worth the effort getting them out though, i think they would look weird in pretty cupcake cases, plus maybe they would stick to the paper.)
  • bake for 12 minutes. (the tops wont brown much, but the bottoms do so dont worry if they look slightly pale)